Requested election recounts like last year's U.S. Senate race tally would cost the recount proponents $50,000 instead of $10,000 under a proposal by Gov. Frank Murkowski.
Certified results from the 2004 race between U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and former Gov. Tony Knowles released in December put Murkowski ahead by more than 9,000 votes, or about 3 percent. But some questioned the Accu-Vote machines used to tally the votes.
A group called Alaskans for Fair Elections gathered $10,000 to initiate a recount, but tallying the hundreds of thousands of votes cast in the Senate race and the disputed House District 5 race cost almost $40,000, according to the state Division of Elections.
Candidates can request a recount paid for by the state if the difference in votes is less than 20 or less than 0.5 percent.
"The people of Alaska should not have to pay for recounts when people are chasing conspiracies," said Murkowski spokeswoman Becky Hultberg. "(Alaskans for Fair Elections) should be accountable for funding that recount."
Increasing the deposit would prevent average citizens from requesting a recount, said Alaskans for Fair Elections organizer David Koester, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Koester said it might make sense to adjust the deposit amount annually to account for inflation, but the law was not meant to have those requesting the recount pay the entire cost.
"The intent of the law was that citizens who want to see the results verified can ask for a recount," Koester said.
Murkowski's bill also would raise the cost of a district recount from $750 to $10,000, and individual precincts would rise from $300 to $2,500. If the deposit doesn't cover the total cost, those requesting the recount would be obligated to pay the remaining sum under the proposal.
Koester said Alaskans for Fair Elections raised the $10,000 through small donations of about $100. The largest donation was $400, Koester said.
"It would take an awful long time to raise $50,000 largely from $100 donations," he said.
The deposit amount for a statewide recount has not been updated in almost 20 years, but Koester said it is likely that it probably cost more than $10,000 to conduct a statewide recount in the 1980s, when Alaska used punch-card ballots.
Voter turnout has more than doubled since 1986, when the recount law was last updated. That year 150,768 voters made it to the polls, compared to 312,598 voters last year.
Koester said the potential for a statewide recount should be included in the budget before the election in case a recount is sought.
"I think it's worth $35,000 or $40,000 to do it every year," he said.
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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